If I hadn't attended the Mystic Conference in Portland, Oregon, last week (thank you Walter and Angela van Dusen!), I might not have had the pleasure of meeting (and hearing) speaker Parris Whittingham, an NYC-based wedding photographer (studio name: From Parris with Love) whose work is fresh, modern and defines storytelling in its truest form.
What also drew me to Parris's work and personality is his and his studio's mission, which, as he describes it, is "to make time to mentor the next generation of emerging wedding photographers and creative professionals. All of this, to improve our craft, nurture the creative spirit and tell your story, like no other."
In the case of couple Marissa and Steve, whose Boho Black Tie-themed wedding took place at ABC Carpet & Home in Manhattan (a beautiful bazaar of home inspiration, decor and design from around the globe), the bride's vision of a relaxed yet energized day that was both modern in feel and classic in style, offered Parris, he says, the opportunity to tell her story, "like no other." The wedding venue for the Buddhist, non-denominational ceremony—hosted at Deepak Homebase, a physical and virtual salon space inside ABC created in partnership with Deepak Chopra—added to the uniqueness of the day, Parris says.
"I first met bride Marissa, co-founder of Negative Underwear, via mutual friend Jess Levin, who herself is the founder of the NYC tech startup Carats & Cake (matching wedding professionals with couples)," Parris says. "Over the years, I’ve come to deeply respect Jess for her candid feedback, thoughtfulness and taste. Within minutes of meeting Marissa, I knew we were a great fit." Which is why he didn't mind when Marissa asked for an impromptu lingerie shoot of her and her bridal party getting married.
"She had her besties model their newest line moments before walking down the aisle," he says. "The beauty, playfulness and personality of each woman came through. And Marissa’s entrepreneurial instinct to post an Instagram sneak peek of that session helped land her on the Forbes '30 under 30' list a few months later."
Over the years, Parris has come to learn that every wedding has common and unique challenges, which he sees as creative opportunities. For instance, he says, "helping the groom see the long-term value of wedding photos is a common challenge we see with men, and frankly, I get it. Getting photographed is awkward, unnatural and can be expensive. The value of any solid wedding and portrait photographer is that we know how to work with energy and create something remarkable. Thankfully Marissa, Steve’s mom and Catalina did a great job of getting through to Steve before the wedding. The resulting photos of him, his brother and best friend getting ready are some of my favorites that we’ve ever created."
When it comes to making signature photographs, Parris believes in the motto “Get the image first and ask for forgiveness later.” The hotel where Marissa got ready, for example, was a bit snooty, he says, and attempted to block him and his team from doing a "first look" out in front of the beautiful ivy-lined trellis walkway.
"When the manager arrived, I asked to speak with him in private, brought him inside the hotel and showed him a side of me that few people have ever seen," Parris explains. "Ultimately, I demanded he call his boss and fix the problem. The moment he turned to go upstairs, I quickly walked back to the archway so we could shoot the first look anyway. The images turned out great and I did what the hotel manager was unwilling to do: treat amazing folks really well on their wedding day. On the elevator ride up to the penthouse, the operator showed a thoughtfulness that was far greater than his boss. Recognizing the importance of this day for Marissa and Steve, he gave us access to a private courtyard where we captured some really fun portraits alongside the red decor."
"Teamwork makes the dream work" is another Parris mantra. "Can I personally shoot details, candids, portraits, and the documentary flow of a wedding? Yes. Will scattering my focus across all these elements produce the best work? No. By focusing on my creative areas of passion and personal connection, heartfelt moments and unexpected details, I can deliver my absolute best for each couple. All the while, our associate photographers focus on their zone of excellence: lush details, relaxed portraits, stunning landscapes and vibrant architecture. The resulting story showcases all of the wedding’s elements, documented with care and attention to detail."
To prep themselves for coverage, Parris and his team likes to spend some time with "key adjectives that define the wedding story," he says, "anticipating unique moments that matter most and asking questions about timing, lighting and access to memorable spaces throughout the venue, even asking why they chose the venue, food, dress, etc. These are unique threads that we seek to weave together alongside our vision to create the tapestry of their story. When you get this part right, egos fall away."
By the time Parris and his team arrives to shoot a wedding, they've made sure to spend 6 to 12 months (or longer) with their couples, which gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their approach, earn trust and put them at ease on the big day. "Our team has a clear vision of the end result and the specific steps each of us is making to get there," he says. "This way, we rarely get flustered or lose focus while shooting. More often than not we can anticipate each other's responses in real time and make needed adjustments without saying a word. All the better to blend into celebration and have fun."
GEAR OF THE DAY
● Primary lens is a 24-70mm
● Dear friend and associate Catalina Kulczar joined Parris for the wedding and shot mostly with a 50mm and 100mm
● On-camera flash used sparingly